14th January 2016 | Blog, Latest Articles

After this past weekend it was reported by various SEO websites (like Search Engine Land and Yoast) that there was a Google algorithm update. Other sources noted that search rankings for keywords fluctuated more than usual, guessing that it could be a Penguin update (the algorithm that lessens the effect of weak backlinks). It was unclear exactly which ranking algorithm was at play, but it was clearly a major update.

Google stated it was not a Penguin update, but a “core update”. Eventually A Google spokesperson confirmed to The SEM Post that their infamous Panda algorithm had been incorporated into their main ranking algorithm.

“Panda is an algorithm that’s applied to sites overall and has become one of our core ranking signals. It measures the quality of a site, which you can read more about in our guidelines. Panda allows Google to take quality into account and adjust ranking accordingly.”

1) What exactly is Panda

Panda is a Google ranking algorithm designed to evaluate whether a website has unique and relevant content for users. It was first implemented in February 2011, and affected almost 12% of all search results. High-quality sites (like news sites) were pushed to the top of search rankings, and weaker ones (those with huge amounts of advertising for example) were pushed down. If your website had one page or section of poor / duplicated content, that meant a search ranking penalty for your entire website.

For the first two years of its existence, Panda was updated almost every a month, and then lessened to two or three times a year just to refine it. This did mean that after you were penalised but amended your content, you had to wait a few months for the algorithm to run again before your changes could influence your rankings.

2) What does this change mean for your site?

With the change, this means your site content will be evaluated on a more regular basis. The main Google ranking algorithm is reported to be updated on a daily basis, and runs constantly. If you have poor content you will be penalised quite swiftly. On the other hand it does mean any changes or fixes you make will be processed much quicker, as opposed to the previous Panda update changes that happened only a few times a year.

This could be the main reason for the change, but it could be that Google is satisfied with Panda and thinks that it doesn’t need any more major refinements.

3) How to Panda-proof your website

If your site has suffered a dip in search traffic, it’s time to evaluate your site.

Determine if your site has unique content

You can utilise an online plagiarism checker like Copyscape to evaluate the content on each page of your website, checking to see if you have duplicated content. This can be a lengthy process as you have to do this page-by-page (with a 10-page limit per day) unless you purchase Copyscape Premium. With their premium offering you can also detect if other sites have plagiarised your own content.

Check the quality of your existing content

Here are few examples of how to improve your content:

  • Have a few people read through your site content to check for spelling and grammatical errors. A second option is to paste your content into a Microsoft Word file and run the spellchecker to find any faults.
  • Reading level – Ensure that your content is easy to read (for all readers to understand, no need for nonsensical or over-technical jargon). But beware that it’s not too simple or Google will penalise you, for example: “I am happy. I am very happy. My website is popular”.
  • When placing outgoing links (maybe when listing sources), only link to authorative websites. You can check a site’s domain and page authority with Moz. We recommend only linking to domains with a MozRank of 60 or higher.
  • Make sure all your facts are up-to-date and relevant for your users.
  • All your links should be working, your images must all load. You should never have a site or page look incomplete or abandoned.
  • Every piece of content should stay on-topic. You could be penalised if your articles stray to other topics regularly, or cover a variety of topics that are not usually linked to each other. Google wants to promote sites that offer consistent and relevant content to users.
  • Your contact information should be clearly displayed on each page.
  • As an onsite display of legitimate business, include “About Us”, “Mission Statement” or other similar information.
  • Display your copyright information on every page, and dates for your articles / blog posts.

There are also technical aspects your SEO provider should attend to:

  • Check for duplicate titles and meta descriptions
  • Ensure all TITLE and ALT tags are added
  • For blogs, your internal links should not be stuffed with your keywords

Add to existing content to add more value to your users

If you want Google and other search engines to consider your pages to have high-quality content, we recommend you publish each with a minimum of 1000 words. Last year Moz and BuzzSumo teamed up to analyse over 1 million articles and found that 85% of all articles contained less than 1000 words, but that articles with more content averaged more shares and links.

BuzzSumo research - articles with more content average more shares and links

But remember – don’t just add words for the sake of having more words – ensure that the extra content genuinely adds value to the existing writing. Also add relevant images and videos if you can as visual content can influence a user’s perception of your site. Also, videos and infographics are two types of visual content that people love to share via social media.

Add more pages – Google loves unique content. It makes sense that if you have more informative and unique content, your search rankings will improve. Add more pages to your site, and have each optimised for relevant keywords.

4) Closing Thoughts

The only takeaway we have from this change is that it will result in higher-quality content being created, and that will only be good for users.